Nearly two decades after he left Pune to become a filmmaker in Mumbai, popular Marathi actor Prasad Oak will make his directorial debut with the August 11 release Kaccha Limbu. The trailer is undoubtedly provocative: it shows a couple’s struggle to bring up their mentally challenged son, who is trying to deal with his burgeoning sexual desire.
The trailer has been called “bold”, but Oak disagrees. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a bold film,” he told Scroll.in. “It is about showing the experience of being the parents of a special needs child. The kind of problems they face and the journey they need to go on to overcome them so they can live more positively. That’s what Kaccha Limbu is about.”
Oak got the idea in 2014. A chance encounter with Girish Dalvi, the son of Jaywant Dalvi, turned him towards one of the noted litterateur’s novels, which he thought would be perfect for a film adaptation. “Someone should throw light on the problems faced by the parents of special needs children and films reach a wide audiences more quickly and that is what drew me in,” he said.”
Oak worked with his good friend and long-time collaborator Chinmay Mandlekar, who had previously written for him in Kshan (2006) and the television show Awaghachi Sansaar, and they spent the next two years adapting the story.
Around 90% of Kaccha Limbu has been shot in black and white, to depict the life of the parents played by Sonali Kulkarni and Natrang and Banjo director Ravi Jadhav, which has become “devoid of colour”. The rest of the film has bursts of colour, which will showcase the hidden desires of Kulkarni’s repressed character.
Oak’s decision to cast Kulkarni and to use this technique to shoot his debut came from a black-and-white photoshoot with Kulkarni. The photographer, Amalendu Choudhary, is also Kaccha Limbu’s cinematographer.
Oak also wanted to experiment for his directorial debut, and shooting in black and white separates his film from the competition. Oak and Choudhary worked on the design, costumes and set for two months before the shoot so that everything would look perfect despite the absence of colour. The challenging nature of potentially risqué subject matter also made it perfect material for Oak’s debut. “Of course, it made the film difficult, but you have to challenge yourself, otherwise what’s the point?” he said.
In recent months, many films dealing with complex subjects, particularly those that are sexual in nature, have had a hard time with the Central Board for Film Certification. Oak wasn’t particularly bothered about the process (the movie was being certified at the time of publication). “The Censor Board has sensible people, who don’t ask for cuts just to trouble filmmakers,” he said. “When they see Kaccha Limbu, they will understand the intentions behind the film and I don’t think it will be a problem.”
In a cast of seasoned Marathi actors, including Kulkarni and Sachin Khedekar, there is the relative newcomer Manmeet Pem, who has the hardest role of playing the mentally challenged character. To ensure that Pem’s performance would not draw too much from other sources and be derivative, Pem and Oak workshopped the role for months. They went over every element of behaviour to improvise and create a fresh character that would feel real and organic: the way he would laugh or cry, how he interacted with his parents.
“We tried our best to make every character real,” Oak said. “If you see the trailer, none of the performances are dramatic or loud.”